One of the exciting elements of being a bartender can be creation. Sure, the majority of the drinks you’ll serve to patrons will be old classics, but sometimes you’ll be asked or inspired to try serving something new. When this happens, you want to make sure that your new cocktail is balanced—you don’t want the mixer overwhelming the flavor or volume of the alcohol, but of course the opposite is even more true. Most importantly, you don’t want to serve drinks that have too high of an alcohol percentage—otherwise, your classy black tie event may descent into frat party territory quite quickly. So here is how to measure alcohol volume per drink.
As an example, we’ll look at making a rum drink. Now, most rums on their own tend to run about 40% Alcohol by Volume, or ABV. So if a customer is ordering a shot of rum, this is what they’re getting. But when you add mixers, while the amount of alcohol is not diminished, its total volume is. Let’s look at an example. Say this is your drink:
45 ml (1 Shot) Rum (40% Alcohol Per Volume, or ABV)
30 ml (2 Shots) Pineapple Juice
15 ml (1 Shot ) Lime Juice
60 ml (4 Shots) Ice / Water
Total = 150 ml
To get the alcohol volume measurement, you need to multiply the alcohol’s milliliters by alcohol per volume (in this case, 45mlX.4), then divide it by the drink’s total milliliters (in this case, 150). Then multiply this by 100 (to bring the percentage out from behind the decimal point). So it looks like this:
The drink’s total alcohol percentage is 12%. The proper range for an alcoholic beverage varies, but 12% is about the ABV of a glass of wine—not a bad barometer to consider when serving drinks professionally. So if you’re ever wondering if a cocktail you’re serving is too strong or too weak, try out this equation and shoot for around 12%.